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Why Fitzgerald Wrote The Great Gatsby Essay, Research Paper

On a warm summer day in 1924 when F. Scott Fitzgerald sat down to start his next project, he had no idea that he would be writing one of the greatest novels in history. In the summer and fall of 1924, Fitzgerald spent his time in France writing a novel that would eventually become known as The Great Gatsby. While the novel is loved by almost all who read it, it is fully understood by few, for to fully understand “Gatsby” one must know its author as well.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Son of Edward Fitzgerald and Mary McQuillian, he was named after his second cousin three times removed, Francis Scott Key, the author of The Star Spangle Banner (”A brief life of Fitzgerald” 1). The Fitzgeralds lived quite comfortably on Mary McQuillian’s father’s inheritance of $250,000. While hitting some hard times, his mother’s name and the appearance of money is what had kept the Fitzgeralds in “the country club set” even though there was no constant source of income. Fitzgerald said it best when he stated that he lived in “a house below average, on a street above average” (”Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald” 1-2).

Trying to provide their son with the best education possible the Fitzgerald’s sent their son to the Newman School, a Catholic Prep School in New Jersey from 1911-1913. After graduating from the Newman School, Fitzgerald entered New Jersey’s prestigious Princeton University. While at Princeton he wrote lyrics for musicals that the Triangle Club, Princeton’s theater group, would perform. Also, Fitzgerald was a contributor of the Princeton Tiger, as well as the Nassau Literary Magazine, both campus publications. During his senior year, Fitzgerald was put on academic probation, though he was a frequent contributor to many school activities he had neglected his studies (”A brief life of Fitzgerald” 1).

After leaving Princeton, while on academic probation in 1917, F. Scott Fitzgerald had decided to join the United States Army. With World War I going on as he entered, Fitzgerald, convinced that he would die in battle quickly wrote his first novel The Romantic Egoist. When he got back a letter from his publisher it was marked rejected. In 1918, after being stationed at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, Fitzgerald had rose to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and had fallen in love with the very rich, very beautiful, 18 year-old Zelda Sayre. Still stationed at Camp Sheridan, Fitzgerald’s publisher once again rejected the revised edition of The Romantic Egoist that Fitzgerald had so diligently worked on. Never actually seeing any combat time the now engaged Fitzgerald was discharged in 1919 (”A brief life of Fitzgerald” 1).

Fitzgerald moved with Zelda, his fianc?, to New York City leaving army life behind to seek his fortune. He found a job in the advertisement business; however he was unsuccessful (”A brief life of Fitzgerald” 1). Disappointed in the meager $90 per month income her soon to be husband would be bringing in, Zelda broke their engagement (”Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald” 6). One Year later in 1920, Fitzgerald, who had never completely given up on writing, had completed his first published novel This Side of Paradise. The novel was a hit with critics and readers alike. While money from novel sales were rolling in and Fitzgerald had become a celebrity of sorts Zelda decided that she would like to marry him again. He obliged and they were married within the year (”F. Scott Fitzgerald” 1-2).

With the success of This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald had access to literary magazines and publishers that he could have never before imagined. During the next four years, the Fitzgerald’s had a daughter but spent most of their time partying, drinking, and reaping the benefits of their celebrity lifestyle. This eccentric lifestyle was paid for by F. Scott’s writing of short stories for publications such as the Saturday Evening Post. In 1924, seeking peace from his wild life at home, F. Scott Fitzgerald moved his family to Europe. While living in France in the summer and fall of that year he wrote his next novel, The Great Gatsby. During Fitzgerald’s writing of “Gatsby,” his wife, Zelda, had an affair with a French aviator. In the winter of 1924-1925 hoping to leave the memories of the affair behind, the Fitzgerald’s moved to Rome where The Great Gatsby was revised (”A brief life of Fitzgerald” 2).

The Great Gatsby almost paralleled Fitzgerald’s own life with many scenarios that take place and experiences that the characters have are extremely close to his own. Many of the characters that make up the cast of the novel are also based on people with whom Fitzgerald had associated throughout his life (H, Nicole 1).

The Characters of Nick Carroway and Jay Gatsby are both a little bit of Fitzgerald himself. Nick is like Fitzgerald in the way that they both are kind, thoughtful young men from Minnesota. Both have been educated at an Ivy League school. Both also have done time in the service during World War I and moved to New York City after being discharged (”The Great Gatsby” 1). Nick and Fitzgerald both inadvertently find themselves surrounded by high society people who are dishonest and corrupt (”Noteworthy Novels: The Great Gatsby” 1).

Like Nick in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald found this new

lifestyle seductive and exciting–he had always idolized the

very rich, and now found himself in a decade in which

unrestrained materialism set the tone of society, particularly

in the large cities of the East (”The Great Gatsby” 2).

Jay Gatsby has the same experiences Fitzgerald has being that both are sensitive men who idolize wealth and luxury. Like Fitzgerald, Gatsby falls in love with a beautiful woman while stationed at a military camp in the south. The two men also spent vast amounts of money to please the women they loved. Fitzgerald spent more money than he was making to keep Zelda happy, and Gatsby spends a great deal of money on parties to impress Daisy (”The Great Gatsby” 1). “They both represent a dramatization of the false dream of money, which Fitzgerald had been fascinated with all his life” (”Structure of The Great Gatsby” 1).

Daisy Buchanan is actually a combination of Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda and his first girlfriend Ginevra King (H, Nicole 1). Daisy is “Gatsby’s ‘Golden Girl’ who falls into a familiar pattern for Fitzgerald of lovely, delicate, and ‘romantic’ but essentially parasitic and emotionally frigid” (”F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby Character Analyses” 2). We see those qualities of Daisy in Zelda herself when she has an affair with the French aviator. Daisy cheats on Tom with Gatsby but in a moment of crisis she comes running back (”F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby Character Analyses” 2). These qualities are also shown in Zelda’s breaking of her engagement of Fitzgerald just because he did not make enough money for her. Ginevera King was Fitzgerald’s first real love, but her family rejected him, again due to his insufficient funds. Though Fitzgeralds romance was through with Ginevera before he even met his wife, Zelda, the women in all of Fitzgerald’s novels have a little bit of Ginevera’s personality in them. Ginevera’s father made a comment to Fitzgerald that would stick in his head for the rest of his life. “Poor boys shouldn’t marry rich girls” (”F. Scott Fitzgerald” 369). Destined to prove him wrong, some feel that is why he was so attracted to Zelda (”F. Scott Fitzgerald” 369).

Tom Buchanan’s major influence is thought to be Tommy Hitchcock, war hero and champion polo player (H, Nicole 1). Born in 1900, Tommy Hitchcock was, at the time of the writing of “Gatsby,” a world famous champion polo player. From 1922-1940, with the exception of 1935, he had received the coveted 10-goal handicap rating, the highest from the US Polo Association. Tommy Hitchcock was also an aviator for France in World War I; Tom Buchanan was having an affair with Myrtle Wilson similar to the one Zelda had with a French aviator (”Hitchcock, Thomas Jr.” 426).

Jordan Baker is the influence of Edith Cummings, one of Ginevra King’s friends throughout her school years while going out with Fitzgerald (H, Nicole 1). Like Jordan, Edith was a professional golfer, winning the 1923 USGA Woman’s Championship (”The official site of the 100th Woman’s Armature Championship 1).

Meyer Wolfsheim has been influenced by Arnold Rothstein a famous gambler in business with Fitzgerald’s neighbor (H, Nicole 1). “Wolfsheim is a memorable figure, and his very ’sentiment’ creates a kind of absurd horror like modern ’syndicate’ gangsters who are nice citizens in their own community, and who contribute to boy-scout troops while controlling the sale of narcotics,” (”F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby Character Analyses” 3). Arnold was the same way in the fact that he ran racing stables and bail bond operations. He also was accused in master minding large gambling scandals, including the fixing of the 1919 World Series by bribing nine players for the White Sox to throw the game to Cincinnati. Other than Rothstein’s connections with gambling, he was a very kind man who did give back to his community (Rothstein 264).

The Great Gatsby was finally published in 1925, but not before going through at least half a dozen title changes, some of them being, Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires, On The Road To West Egg, and Trimalchio, before finally settling for The Great Gatsby (Mizener 191). The novels release was met by critical acclaim and considered his best work ever. Though with good reviews, the sales of the novel never took off, the majority of the revenue brought in by “Gatsby,” was made through sales for stage performances, and some fifty years later, the movie with Robert Redford, and Mia Farrow. The rest is history.

“A brief life of Fitzgerald.” University of South Carolina. Online. Available

http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/biography.html, April 25, 2001.

“F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Books and Writers. Online. Available

http://www.kirgasto.sci.fi/fitzg.htm, April 24, 2001.

“F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Notable American Novelists. Vol. 1. 2000.

“F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby Character Analysis.” Monarch Notes.


H, Nicole. “How It Relates.” Personal E-mail. 6 May 2001.

“Hitchcock, Tomas Jr.” Encyclopedia Americana. Vol. 14. 1994.

“Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Monarch Notes. 2000.

Mizener, Arthur. The Far Side of Paradise. NY, New York: Avon Books,


“Noteworthy Novels: The Great Gatsby” Noteworthy Novels. Online.


http://noteworthynovels.com/fitzgerald.greatgatsby.html, May 6,


“Rothstein, Arnold.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2001.

“Structure of The Great Gatsby.” Monarch Notes. 2000.

“The Great Gatsby.” Spark Notes. Online. Available

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gatsby/context.html, April 24, 2001.

“The Official Site of the 100th Woman’s Amateur Championship.” USW

Amateur. Online. Available http://www.uswamateur.org.history/champions/1923_e_cummings.html, May 5, 2001.

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